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This month, e-Buddies is online with e-Buddies Program Managers from Massachusetts and Illinois. e-Buddies is a volunteer program and we rely on the dedication and hard work of our Program Mangers. e-Buddies Program Managers are responsible for encouraging people with developmental disabilities to sign up for e-Buddies and for maintaining e-Buddies friendships in their state. This month e-Buddies talks with Meredith Freeman and Tracie Levene, e-Buddies Program Managers from Massachusetts and Brian Young, e-Buddies Program Manager from Illinois.

e-Buddies: How did you get involved with e-Buddies?
Meredith: I wanted to work with people from a human services perspective. I really liked the mission [of Best Buddies] and I loved the people at Best Buddies Massachusetts.
Tracie: I was a Program Manager for the Colleges Program at Best Buddies Massachusetts. I knew that a position with the e-Buddies program was opening up, and I thought it sounded exciting and would be a nice change of pace.
Brian: I found an ad on the Internet and applied for a position with Best Buddies Illinois. I wanted an opportunity to work with people with developmental disabilities and I liked the idea of fostering friendships.

e-Buddies: What is the most challenging aspect of your position?
Meredith: The most challenging aspect for me has been a lack of computer knowledge on my part. I have learned a lot on the job.
Tracie: While many people are initially excited about e-Buddies, sometimes it is difficult to ensure participants make a commitment and follow through with the program.
Brian: I find that trying to keep in contact with e-Buddies participants in Illinois is the most challenging part. There are many e-Buddies friendships in Illinois and keeping in touch on an individual basis is hard.

e-Buddies: What is the most rewarding part of your position?
Meredith: I really enjoy getting to meet the special education students and teachers and meeting new people in general.
Tracie: I really enjoy meeting new people and especially getting a chance to talk with people with developmental disabilities.
Brian: I enjoy working with the e-Buddies participants and seeing their skills develop over time. I think that developing computer skills is a huge thing.

e-Buddies: What is your favorite e-Buddies "moment"?
Meredith: I think it is neat to watch the e-Buddies Officers [student leadership position within Best Buddies High Schools and Colleges chapters] work. This year, I have gotten to see them really step up to the position. They inspire me.
Tracie: I like hearing from various agencies about how excited their clients are to hear "You've got Mail."
Brian: Liz is an active e-Buddy in Illinois. Liz loves e-Buddies and communicates weekly with her e-Buddy from California. They talk about their favorite movies, hairstyles and current events on a weekly basis.

Such smooth communication did not originally come naturally to Liz. Through e-Buddies Liz has learned the basics of email, clicking a mouse and hearing "You've got Mail" on her opening screen. Liz has learned so much including improving her compositional, grammar and spelling skills while getting an on-line friend in the process through the vehicle of email. I'm glad to assist Liz when necessary on Wednesday but often I've found she has become more independent as time has gone on.

Liz is an e-Buddies success story of what an on-line friendship can really mean. Liz looks forward to writing more emails to her e-Buddy!

e-Buddies: Describe e-Buddies in three words.
Meredith: Simple, Rewarding, and Educational
Tracie: A Fantastic Program
Brian: Fun, Innovative, and Exciting

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